I Will Walk With You
Fayth was a five-year-old in my congregation who prayed for Barbara every day. She didn’t have a shy bone in her body. So I asked her if she would come forward and pray for Barbara one Sunday. I will never forget the prayer as she stood there confidently by the altar rail. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as her squeaky little-girl voice rang out with confidence:
“Dear Jesus, please don’t let Miss Barbara die.”
That day, a remarkable turnaround began.
Not long after that, Barbara was brought out of her coma and began to acknowledge us. At first it was with silly, goofy smiles. Eventually her brain began to clear, and all remaining vestiges of life support were removed. Even more remarkably, she began to move her hands and arms.
Barbara was always an avid crafter and was well known for making beautiful baby blankets. The day came in the hospital when Barbara asked me to bring her some yarn and a hook so she could see if she could still crochet. Knowing that she didn’t need anything discouraging to block her progress, I hesitantly brought in the items, afraid that the result would be devastating. But I’d forgotten about the great healing work that God had begun. Her first attempts to crochet the yarn were loosely formed and not at all up to her standards. But within days her broken hands began to form the start of a blanket. She began to create beautiful afghans to give away.
The embrace of those who are hurting, whether by their own misdeed or not, is the end product of a soul made new by mercy. This journey that we’re on together needs more people who practice the fine art of imitation - imitating the great mercy of our Father God, and bestowing it as generously as we received it.
In Luke 6, we find Jesus setting the bar for mercy so high that we are to give it even when we’ve been done wrong by the potential recipient. How could we be held to such an unreasonable standard? How could God actually expect us to show mercy to someone who has perpetrated a vile, cruel offense against us? It’s because God is sadistic and unreasonable, right? No, it’s because that is the very thing He did for us.
Now, when you and I are in a church building or we’re reading a good ol’ churchy book, we might be so puffed up and feeling all Jesus-loving and aware of our surroundings to the point that we readily agree that this is just how mercy works, and should work. But how do we respond in the quiet of our hearts when we find ourselves walking beside someone is is hurting and things get ugly and smelly and all earthy?
I grew up in southern Indiana. As a child, I loved it when we walked the creek beds winding through time forgotten hillsides and found these special, ugly looking rocks called geodes. Geodes looked something like a petrified brain on the outside. However, if you crack one open, which is no easy task, you find it full of sparkly, shiny, beautiful crystals. How can something so ugly on the outside be so beautiful inside?
Our problem is often the reverse. How can someone so beautiful on the outside (work with me, people), be so ugly on the inside? How is it that we can walk in God’s mercy and be so devoid of it on the inside. I’m not passing out condemnation cookies here; this is my predicament as well.
Let mercy be our life-song. Let mercy be our rhythm and rhyme. Let mercy be the poetry of our soul so that all can find it and sing the song along with us.
Without mercy, there is nothing left to read here, folks. Perhaps this is a good moment for some soul-bearing prayer.